In the first few days of lockdown after the COVID-19 outbreak, actor Naveen Polishetty noticed how everyone began posting cooking videos on social platforms. He too posted one — a satirical masterchef video in which he tries to cook Aglio Olio with Meatballs but actually ends up making nothing. This was the second in his quarantine video series, after the hilarious attempt at singing in the balcony, inspired by the widely shared videos of Italy.
“A lot of people clicked my cooking video (@naveen.polishetty on Instagram and on his YouTube channel) expecting an actual cooking demo, but they had a good time laughing. I’m a horrible cook, so this is my masterclass,” says Naveen with a hearty laugh. Amid all the anxiety-inducing news of COVID-19, he says we could all do with some humour.
The actor who co-wrote the Telugu hit comic thriller Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya and starred in the Hindi film Chhichhore says even a few months ago, if a director had pitched such a scenario of a virus causing lockdown, he wouldn’t have bought the idea. “I would have asked them to come up with something more believable,” he says.
Now that the lockdown is in force and maintaining personal distancing has become the norm, Naveen says, “I cannot go out and fight the virus. But I can make fun videos. Entertainment has the power to make people forget things, at least for a short while, and give in to what they see on stage or screen. That’s the reason I chose this profession.”
A qualified engineer, Naveen was a theatre actor and then joined AIB (All India Bakchod) before he rose to fame in cinema.
In the first quarantine video, he heads to the balcony, struggles to find a good spot in between the clothes lines and then has to answer errand calls from his mom; he is barely able to sing the opening line of ‘Jeena yahan, marna yahan’ with all the interruptions.
Naveen has been spending the lockdown partaking in household chores, writing, enacting and editing these videos. “The videos are shot on phone and I edit on my laptop. I’ve been learning to edit and it’s time consuming. It’s a lot of work. I wonder how some people talk about having a lot of time on their hands. I’d love to learn a guitar, but where’s the time after editing videos, doing the dishes etc at home?” he asks.
He plans to unveil his new video this weekend — on relationship tussles in lockdown, discussing how couples barely get breathing space in a small apartment.
In a way, uploading these videos on his YouTube channel feels like coming full circle, says the actor, for he first rose to fame through YouTube videos.
On the film front, he’s a part of Nag Ashwin’s production Jathi Ratnalu directed by K V Anudeep, co-starring Priyadarshi and Rahul Ramakrishna. “A lot of effort has gone into the film and I would personally prefer it to release only when it’s safe for people to be in a cinema hall. There’s a huge difference between laughing aloud in a packed hall with the audience as opposed to watching a film at home and laughing alone,” he says.
For now, he’s been getting requests for more fun quarantine videos and is happy to do them.